A question about Houston's loss of electricity
Mon September 15, 2008 11:43 pm

Just wondering …

During the debate over deregulation of electricity some, oh, ten years ago now, opponents raised the question of whether service would be diminished under deregulation. One of the issues was what might happen in case a major hurricane hit Houston. Under regulation, the old Houston Lighting and Power could keep a large number of workers on the payroll in the event of an emergency. The cost of these employees would be included in the rate base and would be passed on to the ratepayers.

Under deregulation, though, the utility cannot afford to pay extra workers to be available in an emergency. Maybe that is why reconnecting Houston is expected to take three weeks, and workers are being brought in from other cities to do the job. It takes time to get these new workers here and integrate them into the work force. So the question is: Were we better off in the pre-dereg days?

According to Center Point Energy’s web site, it has reconnected 31% of its customers. This is three days after the storm. That seems like a pretty good performance to me in a short time, particularly given the conditions. Some areas can’t be reconnected until flood waters recede. But I would still like to see a final comparison of Center Point’s record with that of Entergy, a regulated company.

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